Psalms 23 is another great psalm of comfort, to many readers the greatest of all, for in it we find another “Jehovah-compound,” the LORD Is My Shepherd. The Hebrew behind shepherd (rō‘iy, or rō‘eh, H7462) is one of many words that have a truly ancient history. It goes all the way back to the Akkadian (re‘û) (an extinct Semitic language that existed in Assyria and Babylon), and is then subsequently found in Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic.
Appearing some 170 times in the OT, rō‘iy pictures the simplicity of ancient civilization. Shepherding was the most common occupation throughout ancient Palestine, and this common, ordinary word simply refers to the feeding of domestic animals. Such a mundane word, however, was transformed by biblical usage. It was used to describe the true function of the leaders of God’s people. A true leader is not a despot or dictator who not only drives his sheep but sometimes even slaughters them. Rather, a true leader is a shepherd who leads, tends, feeds, and protects his sheep at the risk of his own life.
Our Lord, of course, is the Great Shepherd. As Charles Spurgeon writes in his The Treasury of David, “What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd!” Think of it! God descended and assumed one of the lowliest occupations in the ancient world. Likewise, the true function of the king of Israel was to be a shepherd (2Sa_5:2; 2Sa_7:7; Jer_3:15), as was that of other leaders, although at times they did it badly (Jer_2:8; Jer_22:22; Eze_34:2-3; Eze_34:8; Eze_34:10).
Coming to the NT, the word pastor is the direct descendant of that OT precedent. The word “pastors” in Eph_4:11, in fact, is a translation of the Greek poimēn (G4166), which means shepherd (poimēn is used to translate rā‘â in the Septuagint). In Classical Greek, it referred to the herdsman who tended and cared for the sheep. It was also used metaphorically to refer to a leader, a ruler, or a commander. Plato, for example, compared “the rulers of the city-state to shepherds who care for their flock.” This meaning was carried over into the NT. A pastor leads, tends, feeds, and protects the sheep that God has entrusted to his care. What a solemn responsibility!
Scriptures for Study: Read the “Shepherd Trilogy,” noting that in Psalms 22, the Great Shepherdredeems the sheep (cf. Joh_10:11); in Psalms 23, He rescues the sheep (cf. Rev_7:17); and in Psalms 24, He rewards the sheep (cf. 1Pe_5:4).
THE DECLINE AND DEMISE OF CIVILIZATION
THE DECLINE AND DEMISE OF CIVILIZATION
Hundreds of years before God gave the Hebrews the Old Testament Law, He set the cornerstone for the progress of civilization: capital punishment, Genesis 9:5-6. Additionally, His view of the criminal deeds of mankind is blatantly underscored in Holy Writ. Additionally, His instructions to His people included plain information about how to put evil away from them. Deut. 17-22. Parents were charged with the responsibility of turning in incorrigible children, even consenting to their just death, Deut. 21:20. One may protest that those instructions were valid under the Mosaic Law, and not under the dispensation of Grace. That would be correct other than the Genesis 9 reference, which predates O.T. Law. But the question remains, “Has God’s viewpoint toward sin and evil changed, or our responsibility lessened?” Obviously it has not changed since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Are you thinking with me?
As the time of man’s present rule on earth comes speedily to an end, Satan has worked hard to inundate the world with material things. This has been a most effective softening tactic. For far too many the fear of losing those things has crippled the will to be responsible; to clearly delineate right from wrong; to call sin what it is, and to maintain law and order on the Judeo-Christian foundation of civilization.
So, the world, and particularly our nation sinks further each year into the quagmire of evil and degradation by rejecting the principles that make a nation great. Demonstrations abound of specific intent to sabotage order. This can only result in national and global anarchy as a ready stage for a dictator, the likes of which has yet to be seen on the world stage.
The good news is that although the sun may be going down on this age of grace, it has not yet set! It is still called today (the day of grace). Let the people of God everywhere be patient and faithful to sound the warning of the last days: “harden not your heart as in the provocation.” Psalm 95:8; Heb. 4:7. Let the words of the wise man, Solomon, be heard: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Prov. 14:34. I am grateful to God that the old ship of Zion still sails faithfully upright in and through many of our Lord’s New Testament Churches. Let us pray for the strengthening of others in the Lord!
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